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1 December 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 335: The Time Monster, Episode Five

Dear diary,

It’s always a bit odd when a story goes through such a massive shift in tone. If you were to show this episode to someone unfamiliar with the story alongside Episode One from the same tale, I’m not sure that they would automatically realise that both were from the same story. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it helps to keep the interest up when we shift settings so radically like this – but it does leave me in an odd situation where I think I’d have rather had two separate stories based around these ideas. One in which the Master torments UNIT with his deadly time experiments and one in which the Doctor and Jo find themselves in the ancient city of Atlantis – possibly sent by the Time Lords to ensure that the destruction goes according to plan (although there’s no Professor Zaroff in sight! Maybe he’s busy feeding his pet octopus, no?)

The design of Atlantis is actually rather well handled, and I’m pleased to see how heavily it draws on the designs of Ancient Greece. You can really tell that they’ve put some thought into all of this, which is nice for the sake of two episodes and a few brief cameos throughout the rest of the story. The theme carries on through brilliantly from the design of the sets, costumes, and props. Even Jo’s outfit is rather lovely, and the running joke of calling her Lady Jo-Jo is great fun (and the name seems surprisingly fitting for her character!)

I’m also finding that more and more the dialogue of this story is keeping me interested. We’re a far cry now from the ‘good ship women’s lib’ from a few days ago, and we get great scenes like the one where the Master, the Doctor, and Jo all bump into each other (‘curses! Foiled again!’). There’s also lots of great moments like the Master arriving in the centre of Atlantis, stepping out of his TARDIS and casually brushing aside one of the tridents pointed in his direction. And yet, despite all of this, I just can’t get into the story.

I think it’s because everything has come a bit ‘too little too late’. As I’ve said, I wonder if I’d have preferred a full four-part story that sees the Doctor and the Master battling it out in Atlantis (just typing that out makes me think about how obvious it seems), without having sat through the previous four instalments of the story. I’m also wondering about the Doctor’s arrival here – he implies that they can travel to Atlantis in the TARDIS because he’s locked onto the Master’s co-ordinates via his new TARDIS-tracking machine… but surely that’s not enough to over-ride the Time Lord’s blocks on the ship?

And then there’s that oncoming fear of tomorrow’s episode. I’m guessing it will see the return of our giant white bird costume, which I’m not too eager to see again, and we’ve got a minotaur thrown in too. There’s a very real danger that the season could be going out on a bit of a whimper…

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